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Published on September 3, 2009

Contact: Carolyn Barth
E-mail: media@cap.org

Pathologists Encourage Parents to Teach Children Tips to Protect Themselves Against H1N1 as School Starts

Northfield, IL.—Back to school is a time for children to learn and grow...and also share germs. On August 24, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report stating that the H1N1 flu virus could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths, mainly among children and young adults. The outbreak could occur as early as September around the time that school starts, and the peak infection may occur in mid-October.

“You can teach your children good hygiene habits, such as frequent handwashing, to protect themselves from the H1N1 virus, which is expected to return in September, at the beginning of the school year,” said Melanie A. Osby, MD, FCAP, a board-certified pathologist in Los Angeles, Calif. “Children, young adults, and pregnant women are at greater risk for a developing H1N1. In addition to it is more important than ever to vaccinate these groups against seasonal influenza and the H1N1 pandemic influenza this year.”

Pathologists are doctors who examine cells, tissues and body fluids to diagnose infectious diseases, including H1N1 influenza, offer these tips:

  • Have your child wash their hands often with soap and water for 15-30 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Tell your children to wash their hands for as long as it takes them to sing their ABCs, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or the “Happy Birthday” song.
  • Remind your child to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. If they don’t have a tissue, let them know they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or shoulder; not into their hands.
  • Teach your child to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth—germs spread this way.

In addition to direct contact with an infected person, H1N1 bacteria can live on common surfaces, such as a table, for a day or weeks and can be transmitted when someone touches it.

“As a pathologist, I diagnose infectious diseases, including the influenza A virus of which H1N1 is a subtype,” said Dr. Osby, MD, FCAP. “I know that accurate diagnosis of influenza A is an important safeguard to protect the public’s health. If a case of H1N1 is suspected, I would provide this information to the primary care physician and work with the appropriate health authorities.”

The College of American Pathologists (CAP) is a medical society that serves more than 17,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world’s largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance.